Brachylaena transvaalensis (Forest Silver Oak)
Plant image

Brachylaena transvaalensis is an evergreen tree, although it can be deciduous at times depending on its location. It can grow to a height of between 10 and 25 metres. This tree produces a single straight trunk which at times is slightly fluted. Although the grey to pale brown bark is smooth initially, it becomes vertically striated and stringy with age. The grey twigs are ribbed and hairless.

Name & classification

Botanical name:
Brachylaena transvaalensis

Common names:
Forest Silver Oak (English); Bosvaalbos (Afrikaans); mphahla (NS)
umPhahla (Z); mufhata (V)

Plant family:

Plant categories:

SA tree no:

Name derivation & history:
From the Greek 'brachy' meaning short and 'chlaina' meaning a cloak, referring to the short floral bracts; 'transvaalensis' refers to the former province of the Transvaal in South Africa.



Leaf habit:
Evergreen to semi-deciduous (depending on conditions)

Up to 25 metres

Plant shape:
This tree produces a single straight trunk which at times is slightly fluted.

Leaf description:
The narrowly elliptic leaves are dark green and glossy above and white-felted below. They are alternate with a raised midrib underneath. The leaf margins are either entire or can be shallowly toothed towards the tip of the leavesand are often wavy.

Flower description:
The whitish flowers appear in dense clusters towards the tips of the branches. The flower stalks are either short or absent.

Flower colour:

Flowering months:
July to September

Fruit description:
The flower clusters produce clusters of small dry nutlets crowned with tufts of cream bristles.


Natural distribution:
They are distributed throughout KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and the Limpopo provinces within South Africa and are also found in Swaziland.

Forest silver-oaks are found in different forest types ranging from evergreen and semi-deciduous to riverine. They also occur in wooded grassland along the escarpment.

Water requirements:
Moderate water requirement

Frost tolerance:

Light conditions:

Other Characteristics

Has non-aggressive roots

Edibility & Toxicity

We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is edible
We have no confirmation that any part of this plant is toxic, however we urge caution as this information may be incorrect.


Interaction with physical surroundings:
The nectar-rich flowers attract bees and other insects. Young leaves are browsed by bushbuck.
Attracts birds
Attracts insects
Attracts mammals

Other information

Uses & Cultural aspects:
The strong, hard, fine-grained wood is used for numerous purposes including hut and boat building, fence posts and spear shafts, as well as hoe and axe handles.

Propagation takes place either by seed or cuttings.

It grows fast, with a non-invasive root system. It is frost hardy and requires a moderate amount of water as well as full sun.

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